Veranstaltung: “Colloquium on the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices”, online, 08.05.2023

Colloquium on the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices
Dear colleagues,
we cordially invite you to join the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices (BOAP) Research Colloquium. Based on a collaboration of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Aalto University, and the Technical University of Berlin, this bi-monthly colloquium provides an open platform for an international network of researchers interested in BOAP and related methodological and analytical approaches. Its main goal is to contribute to strengthening the robustness of research designs in STS and the sociology of technology and innovation. Each event features the presentation and discussion of one research project that traces the biographies of complex sociotechnical systems across multiple locales and extended timeframes, often linking multiple studies and scales of analysis. The colloquium will take place online on May 8th, 4 pm (CET). It will feature a talk by Lisa Reutter (University of Copenhagen) titled Data-driven puzzles: Understanding failed projects in the datafication of public administration. The talk invites an open discussion on four methodological puzzles encountered in a study of datafication in public administration and the challenges, obstacles and constraints linked to datafication projects.

About the talk:
The field of critical data and algorithm studies has emerged in recent years as a force to rigorously research the multiple ways data, technology, power, and politics intersect and are integrated into our social lives. In this talk I will use my ongoing empirical research on changing data practices in Nordic welfare states as a point of departure, introducing you to the various ways of how I have researched this phenomenon. In my work I understand public administration datafication as being made up of two interwoven processes: the use of more and different data – and the recirculation of data in increasingly complex ways, both within and outside of the public sector through technologies such as machine learning and data platforms. In my previous research I have zoomed in and out, both doing empirical research on individual data teams and projects attempting to produce data-driven technology over time, and the political processes and documents that are mutually constituting this administrative reform. I especially struggle (d) with four central puzzles, which I will elaborate upon in the talk, and which will hopefully spark an interesting conversation on sociotechnical change in public administration and beyond. The puzzles are 1) How to avoid determinism in the analysis of data-driven public administration; 2) How to navigate between hype/discourse and real world/materiality in studying public administration datafication; 3) How to navigate between critical accounts of specific applications of data-driven technology in the public sector and a general critique of the datafication of public administration/society; and 4: How to balance between proactive and reactive critiques of datafication. I argue that one way to address these puzzles is to focus on challenges, obstacles, and constraints in projects. These should be studied dynamically over time and in different settings and contexts, rather than isolated incidents of failure. As I am now embarking on fieldwork in the Danish public sector, focusing on cancelled projects or projects that have been put on hold, I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how to deal with the messiness of datafication methodologically and theoretically.

About the speaker:
Lisa Reutter has recently started a PostDoc at the University of Copenhagen after defending her PhD thesis entitled “Datafication of Public Administration – Between Policy and Practice” at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in February. Lisa is located at the Center for Tracking and Society at Copenhagen University and works on the ERC funded project Datafied Living. Datafied Living concerns the study of self-tracking and other forms of person-based tracking across personal, work and institutional contexts of everyday life. Lisa is especially interested in the institutional context of Nordic public administration and its data practices. Her work operates at the intersection of critical data and algorithm studies and public administration.

Zoom link and contact:
Zoom PW: 099802

If you are interested in the activities of the research network, or would like to present at the colloquium, get in touch at

Next dates in the BOAP Colloquium
(all colloquium sessions start at 4 pm, Berlin time)
08.05.2023, Lisa Reutter (University of Copenhagen): Data-driven puzzles: Understanding failed projects in the datafication of public administration.
03.07.2023, Summer break
04.09.2023, Anne Helmond and Fernando van der Vlist (Utrecht University): Platform historiography: Studying the evolution of digital platforms and apps